Showing Lincolnshire how the Yorkshire folk live, Hull Truck Theatre had the Drill Hall’s audience wiping away tears of laughter and sadness on Thursday, March 18th as they showcased “Me and Me Dad”.
The play is set in Doncaster and has a predictable plot: the awkwardness between father and son is profound because the link that kept them together has been tangibly lost through the loss of the mother, so it is obvious that this play will see a relationship rebuild by dealing with grief together.
However, Matthew Booth (of “Emmerdale”) — who plays the son Andy Green — regularly steps out of the play to talk to the audience one on one, and his self-deprecating narration keeps the whole thing light hearted and gets the audience really involved in the story.
Written by Nick Lane, the script is crude and witty beyond measure. Lane captures the northern-England speech superbly and the set which clearly depicts a working-class house, complements the script and makes the whole thing very believable.
Booth and Eamonn Fleming, who played his dad Pete, gave very solid performances. It was charming to watch the two characters slowly gain a mutual understanding after years of never really knowing each other.
It was clear that the plot’s moment of upset would be Andy confronting his dad about never being there for him and being insensitive towards him wanting to be an actor. The increasing irritation in Andy was shown brilliantly by Booth who gained the sympathy of the audience because of his emotional dilemma: he wants to help his dad and so reverses the parent/child roles by teaching him how to cook and so on, but his dad refuses to help himself which enrages Andy.
Lane seems to raise the issue that it takes time to develop an understanding between people, and that being family doesn’t automatically guarantee an effortless relationship – it still needs work. Booth and Fleming brilliantly portray the frustrations between two males from different generations trying to understand each other.
The male domination was shattered though by Una McNulty’s performances playing Andy’s mum during flashbacks and as an unseen presence, his girlfriend from London, and his embarrassing aunt Jean. As the mother, McNulty was splendid. She captured that warm maternal love, emphasised the incompetence of Pete, and was funny with it. However, her other two appearances were not so compelling.
When she played Aunt Jean, it was like a pantomime character had walked onto the wrong set as there was nothing professional about her, it was just silly. But the girlfriend from London was the most confusing character of all. McNulty wavered in and out of a southern accent (very unsettling when you consider the alternative was a hoarse northern voice) and the whole point of the character was unclear. She is the one who confronts Andy that he needs to bereave before he can move on, but the audience would know this anyway as it’s the central theme to the play and so having that spelt out felt quite patronising and made her presence unnecessary.
Overall though, “Me and Me Dad” deserves the success it has had and makes it clear why the Hull Truck Theatre company are still going strong after 25 years.Tweet